“It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Al Roker!” is what someone might have said if they were at Wallaby Ranch when the Today Show’s own weatherman chose it as the launching pad for his first hang-gliding experience. Al Roker’s flight was just one of more than 30,000 safe and incident-free excursions launched under the watchful eye of veteran hang-glider pilot and owner of Wallaby Ranch, Malcolm Jones. Together with a permanent crew of nine other pilots, instructors, and technicians, Malcolm leads aerotow hang-gliding flights above the lush Florida landscape of his ranch. The fleet of planes tows hang-gliders into the air, at which point they are released to float above the trees and drift smoothly down to the ground like a sleepy eagle.
Wallaby Ranch has full camping and RV accommodations on site, allowing groups and families to plan extended stays as they learn to master the aerial art. The crew prepares fresh community breakfast and lunch, and a 27,000-gallon swimming pool cools off visitors after a hard day’s glide. Guest can clamor up the climbing wall, while children can caper about the playground. Mountain-bike and walking trails abound, winding through the terrain and plunging hikers into the surrounding, native wildlife.
Flying in one of Quest Air Soaring Center's hang gliders is like transforming into a giant bird. The cockpit, floor, and engine of a traditional aircraft are all stripped away, leaving nothing but unparalleled views of Lake County. In good weather, visibility stretches to both of Florida's coasts and reveals everything in between: Disney, Universal Studios theme park, and even Cape Canaveral. Quest's certified hang-gliding instructors teach new fliers to navigate this elevated terrain during tandem discovery flights that introduce basic concepts such as turning and accelerating. As students progress, they move on to solo flights and more advanced skills, such as navigating thermals and rescuing pedestrians from the tops of broken ferris wheels.
Leading these aerial excursions are Quest Air Soaring Center's capable instructors, led by co-owners Russell Brown and Campbell Bowen, a national hang gliding champion. When not soaring through the air, Bowen and Brown spend time on their company's private lake, where gear for fishing, paddle boating, and other aquatic activities are available to Quest Air's customers free of charge.